Charles W. Parry, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Alcoa who was regarded as an intellectual at work and a cut-up after hours, died Friday in Naples, Fla., after a lengthy illness. He was 79.
Mr. Parry worked 39 years for Alcoa , beginning as an electrical engineer in a plant in Massina, N.Y., working his way up the ranks to head the company from 1983 until his retirement in 1987. He was succeeded by Paul O'Neill.
Alain Belda, Alcoa chairman and CEO, said Mr. Parry's tenure occurred during a time of worldwide aluminum competition as well as the challenge to aluminum from new materials.
"Charlie set the path for Alcoa's growth through diversification and mergers and acquisitions," Belda said in a statement. "He brought special experience, insight and leadership skills to Alcoa. I feel privileged to have worked with him."
A Morningside native and graduate of Peabody High School, Mr. Parry attended the University of Pittsburgh for two years before joining the U.S. Army's 836th Engineer Aviation Battalion, which saw action during World War II in the Philippines. Upon his discharge, he returned to Pitt, earning an electrical engineering degree in 1948.
Vincent Scorsone, who knew Mr. Parry both as a colleague at Alcoa and a neighbor in the Plaza at Grandview on Mount Washington, remembered his friend as a "gregarious, warm, funny, sweet individual."
As a corporate head, Mr. Parry "was more an intellectual type, not a hard-driving CEO, but more of a warm, thoughtful CEO," said Scorsone, who was a group vice president under Mr. Parry and who retired in 1994 as executive vice president.
Outside the boardroom, Mr. Parry was something of an entertainer, both Scorsone and Mr. Parry's son, William Parry, of Chicago, recalled warmly.
"He was well remembered for telling jokes and doing voice impressions. He enjoyed life," his son said.
"He could have made a living on stage, doing dialects and telling jokes," Scorsone said. "He was a master joke teller. People would ask him to tell jokes they heard 20 times before because he did it so well. He loved to entertain."
Scorsone and his wife, Janet, socialized with Mr. Parry and his wife, Margery, sometimes at gourmet meals Mr. Parry would take half a day to prepare. And, Scorsone said, he was a lover of good wine and had a "great" wine cellar.
"He was just a lovable person, he really was," Janet Scorsone said.
At Alcoa, Mr. Parry was able to extract work rule changes following a strike in the mid-80s that were necessary to improve efficiencies and made Alcoa a much stronger company, Scorsone said.
"We got work rule changes we wanted to make Alcoa world competitive. It was very important to us because we were saddled with old contract language that kept us from modernizing the workplace ... That was a very, very important thing that happened on his watch," Scorsone said.
Besides his wife and son, Mr. Parry is survived by three daughters, Anne Parry of Naples, Fla., Martha Clark of Lafayette, Calif., and Mary Elizabeth Readey of Peoria, Ill.; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in Naples, Fla., on Tuesday. Hodges Funeral Chapel in Naples is handling funeral arrangements. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Mary of the Mount Church, Mount Washington, on July 30.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Parry Family Endowed Science Scholarship, Carlow College, 3333 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh 15213.
Michael A. Fuoco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1968.